Springfield Supervisor Pat Herrity claimed the dissenting vote. “It probably is not going to surprise the board that I won’t be able to support this,” he said.
By a 8-1 margin, the Board of Supervisors advertised the county executive’s budget with the proposed two and a half cent tax increase.
Braddock Supervisor John Cook supported the advertisement but stated he won’t support a budget in May if it remains at the advertised tax rate.
“So I'll support the advertisement because I think the process dictates that there be something on the table. But if the board is inclined to pass it as is, it will have to do so without me,” said Cook. “If the board is inclined to do what a couple of other people have suggested this morning, which is look for reductions and perhaps go back to that concept of balancing, then I’m looking forward to being part of that discussion and will keep an open mind to where we should end up. But two and a half cents is not where it's going to be.”
Jeff McKay, chair of the budget committee, said advertising a lower rate “would be taking off the table an opportunity to hear from our public about whether our public employees from the schools and county side should be getting the type of compensation increases to move them into market and to deliver the services that we rely on in this county.”
In addition to community meetings scheduled around the county, the board slotted three days, April 10-12, for public hearings before the full board.
“We have two months of community conversation ahead of us, and some members of this board have declared how they are voting on the budget today or what they can’t support,” said McKay. “Two months we have to hear from our community about what their priorities are. And to me it would be irresponsible to decide how we are going to vote on the budget without hearing from members of our community and how they feel about it.”
The board will officially adopt the FY 2019 budget on May 1.
If the Board of Supervisors were to adopt the full two and a half cent tax rate increase, it would amount to an additional $268 on the average homeowner’s annual tax bill.
“When we advertise the tax rate, that will become the ceiling for what the tax rate can be. It can be lower, it can be the same, but it cannot be higher than” two and a half cents, said Chairman Sharon Bulova.
Below are excerpts from the March 6 board meeting. The supervisors spoke in the order presented below:
Pat Herrity, Springfield District
“It probably is not going to surprise the board that I won’t be able to support this. A two and a half cent with [an increase] in the storm water tax, a five percent potential tax increase, 26 percent over five years.
“I voted for last year’s budget because I thought it was reasonable. We made some difficult decisions last year.
“I think we need to go back to doing what our residents have had to do in a time of stagnant wages, and make difficult decisions. And we just frankly have not done that. I’ve put a bunch of them on the table and it hasn’t happened and it needs to happen. ...
“If you look at wages, they’ve been stagnant, we’re literally taxing people out of Fairfax County.
“I appreciated the county executive’s introductory remarks when he said we’ve got to be more nimble and more efficient. We need to get to that, and I can’t put a potential five percent additional burden on our residents. I won’t be supporting it.”
Cathy Hudgins, Hunter Mill
“This advertising gives us that opportunity to look at what we really need.
“And I think it is difficult having a conversation with the citizens sometimes when we approach it as to what is the cost versus what is the return value. And I really have to say that we have done a lot of work to make certain that we try to be more efficient and more creative in the services that we provide.
“So I think there needs to be a balancing that we need to have here. We provided a meaningful option [in the meals tax]. And guess what? Our citizens didn’t support it. ...
“So I think it’s important that if we want to talk about how great Fairfax County is, we need to be prepared to figure out how to have the services that that draw people here and create a more balanced community in supporting what it takes to live in this county.
“So we’ll have a chance to have that discussion and maybe the opportunity to move forward, so my vote is yes.”
Kathy Smith, Sully
“I think that we are at the beginning of the discussion with the public …
“I’m not at the point of saying what I will vote for in this budget. This budget supports our employees, it supports the school system. We heard from a community group that suggested that we advertise at this rate...
“It is a fine balance between looking at the needs we have in this community and the services we want to provide and how we do that. So I’m supportive of advertising this tax rate.”
Jeff McKay, Lee, Budget Chair
“I appreciate everyone's comments. Clearly, we are going to work to generate savings but as many have spoken, you would be cutting off conversation if we didn’t advertise this tax rate.
“The lion’s share of all new revenue goes to … employee pay and teacher pay. And there is no way you could come up with enough cuts in this budget and do the type of pay increases that our employees and teachers deserve. The numbers just don’t work.
“Every member of the board has the opportunity to bring forward a package of cuts that balances the budget to the tax rate that they so desire. I look forward to having that conversation as we move forward. ...
“To me it would be irresponsible to decide how we are going to vote on the budget without hearing from members of our community and how they feel about it.
Sharon Bulova, Chairman
“This is a budget that does address the board's highest priorities, Diversion First, addressing the opioid crisis, gang prevention, early childhood education, funding compensation for our teachers as well as our county employees ...
“I did also want to just say something for people who believe that people are fleeing Fairfax County to other parts of the region. Since 2015, Fairfax County’s population has actually increased by 26,700, which is actually the size or a little bit more than the size or the population of the City of Fairfax. So we’ve been growing.”
Stay Involved: County Budget Meetings
Thursday, March 22, 7 p.m., Springfield District Budget Town Hall Meeting, Springfield Governmental Center, Community Room, 6140 Rolling Road, Springfield
April 10-12, Board of Supervisors Public Hearings on FY 2019 Budget and FY 2019-2023 Capital Improvement Plan. See www.fairfaxcounty.gov/bosclerk/speakers-form to sign up.
More at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/budget